Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Running Time: 104 mins
The Commuter is an American film about a businessman who finds himself plunged into a conspiracy on the way back home on a commuter train.
Liam Neeson, a January release, and some sort of conspiracy. I think you know what’s coming. Although featuring elements of excitement and thrills from time to time, The Commuter is still a fairly generic and less-than-exceptional thriller that drags on over the course of an excessively convoluted story, and only bursts into life in a couple of short explosions of action or good drama.
However, there’s one thing that we need to talk about before we get into why The Commuter isn’t so great. Liam Neeson has played this role – an everyman who is thrown into a dangerous situation and must punch his way out of things – about a million times in the last few years. Now, on the one hand, you could say that it’s a very tired and generic performance from Neeson, not offering anything particularly different to the likes of Taken, Run All Night and more.
On the other hand, you could say that Neeson puts in another great turn in his now signature role, but is let down by the rest of the movie. Watching The Commuter, with its fairly lacklustre screenplay and less-than-thrilling directing, I kept coming back to watching Liam Neeson for some good entertainment. Now, whether that’s watching him in a punch-up, or simply following his character’s story, there’s something about Neeson, just like in all these movies, that’s actually rather enjoyable. His charisma and wisdom, along with his excellent acting ability, go a long way here to make The Commuter a far more engaging movie than it could have been.
Despite that, there isn’t all that much else to give high praise to here. For starters, the screenplay is frought with problems, all of which contribute to the film’s overall lacklustre and seemingly generic feel. While I have to say that some of its bigger twists in the middle act aren’t all that bad, and set up for some fun action, the majority of the movie is an excessively convoluted and still fairly predictable case of affairs, not doing enough to make itself stand out in the long line of recent Liam Neeson thrillers.
The film revolves around Neeson after he is approached by a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga), and is forced into searching for a passenger that supposedly ‘doesn’t belong’ on his commuter train. Now, while that premise may have the potential for some good mystery, it’s brought into play far too abruptly here, with Farmiga springing up out of nowhere, and although being deliberately vague, giving us way too little information on what on earth is going on to captivate us more.
As a result, the film begins its main story on the wrong foot, leaving you confused and feeling like you’ve missed something out, only to realise that the film is deliberately keeping you in the dark about fairly simple things that it needn’t do so, resulting in a very frustrating watch that lasts right up to the end.
There are a few good moments, however, and although I can’t say that Jaume Collet-Serra manages to direct the most visually thrilling action sequences (as many have a heavily computerised feel to them), they’re still a good bit of fun to watch in the context of the movie’s crazy twists.
However, the majority of The Commuter is a bit of a let-down, with a consistently generic and predictable vibe being worsened by a confusing and overly convoluted story, only for Liam Neeson to pick up the pieces with yet another very competent lead performance, and that’s why I’m giving this movie a 6.8 overall.